The City of Fury (chapter 2)

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As I laid in bed on my first nite in the student residence listening to the rain pour, I wondered what I had done with my life.  The orientation of the student residence that afternoon had been brief and uneventful.  The school I was associated with was one that is a Spanish school here in BA but also has a side program where one can come teach English in exchange for food and lodging at the school. I had my own private room in the residence and it was decent and spacious enough. It wasn’t a 5 star hotel  but I was staying here free of change in exchange for some English lessons.  Most tourist time in the city is limited due to finances of having pay for accommodation at hotels. Having my lodging provided for me would be what would get me in the door to be able to stay in the city for a longer term than most.

It worked out that I would only be required to teach English at nite for a couple of times a week.  In the day I would be free to do what I want. It was in that moment that I am so grateful for my lonely planet guide that I had purchased before coming here.   Choosing a good guide may seem like such a minute detail but in this case it was my saving grace.  I had picked the lonely planet guide and truth be told, I wouldn’t have known what I would have done without it during those early days.

The guide showed me places in the city that go beyond what most guides will show you. Buenos Aires is so incredibly big and complex that with the right guide,  I was kept occupied every single day of my life and it would be a whole 6 weeks before I began to feel the itch for something else to do.   Those early days pretty much consisted of places like the Evita Museum, tango lessons at confiteria ideal,  the cemetery of Recoleta, dining at parillas, getting lost and having to get directions in Spanish etc. as well as a whole host of other activities too many to name.

One thing that I felt very glad of is that I drilled myself hard to learn the Spanish language one year before. The story really is quite interesting I was in Canada learning tango and going to my 9 – 5 job routine. It was in the midst of prayer and meditation that I felt strongly somehow that I was meant to learn Spanish. In that moment I could not see the reason why but I feel very compelled, almost urgent. So in sept of 2008, I began to invest my money in language material to get well versed in the language.

It felt ridiciulous to be sitting in a house repeating out Spanish verbs and phrases out loud while all my friends who were young and single like me were out dining at restaurants and going to movies.  It would be only 6 months later that the opportunity to go to Argentina would open up and by then, I was more than well versed in the language.

Every person whom I know who has visited Buenos Aires has told me that if one visits they should know at least some Spanish. To the North American mindset where almost everyone we meet speaks at least some english, the idea that there is this country where people cannot speak not even a word of English seems incomprehensible. But truth be told, if I had not been so diligent in my Spanish lesson, I would have been dead meat here in Argentina. 

Uprooting and planting yourself in the middle of another country may sound like such a romantic gesture but it is not one that should be done without careful thought and preparation. If I had studied any less or had used resources that were not up to par, the trip would have been  a disaster.   The level of Spanish that I needed went beyond “Hola, quiero una cerveza” (hello, I want a beer)   I needed to know how to speak Spanish to get by in extremely complicated situations like dealing with a phone that has been lost or stolen.  Or trying to form a meaningful relationship with someone as I would later find out.

Those early days in Argentina served well in toughening me up mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Due to the structure and transportation system, it is not uncommon to find yourself walking 10 blocks or more on a daily basis. My pampered North American legs were not used to the amount of walking that would be considered normal to an Argentine. 3 days after I arrived, I had a situation where I made a wrong turn on my way back to the residence and  what would have been a 15 min walked turned into a 90 min unplanned tour of the city with me asking directions to every local that I could find. By the time I got back to the residence, my legs felt like they were on fire.

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